singing bowl ㄴ

the next consonant (ㄴ) in a series of poems written about a singing bowl, written after Robert Okaji’s shutters poems. see here for the original prolegomenon.

the singing bowl
is muffled full
of rice or milk
-emptied, throat cleared,
the lesson becomes plain.
how many has it
brought to hush
how many genuflected
how many shaped
into a flower
& light as origami
placed upon a pond?
a cavity, with
the guiding hand
of light, it resembles
so many things
: a classical convex,
a brassy harbinger
of quiet, shaped
like a cornea
that sees nothing
-it must live with
the sun.

23 thoughts on “singing bowl ㄴ

  1. I thought about this poem for a while and I feel that the beauty of English shines most when it is like an English garden– without obvious order like a formal symmetrical French Garden, but with rich natural/abstract beauty, underpinned by a loose order. Also, nice photo, I like how the brass matches the color of the text.

    1. English is a very flexible language. what are your thoughts about the singing bowl as an object of poetic inspiration? did you read some of Robert Okaji’s ‘shutters’ poems? he is a great poet of the mundane.

      1. I have read them (I follow his site) and they were good. I feel the use of Dharma instruments such as the singing bowl as inspiration for poetry is a great choice. It adds a certain profoundness into the poem.

      2. there is something about the singing bowl, as though it is struggling to form a coherence, while simultaneously being perfect in its own unique way of sounding. i love the idea of man having manufactured an instrument that replicates the vibration of the universe.

      3. Exactly, also, perhaps you could weave together a poem describing a Dharma service, with the meditation, chanting, bells, drums and singing bowls. Paint a symphony with your poetry. What do you think?

      4. i don’t know nearly enough about that. i think that may be a job for you. i have participated in a traditional Korean, Dangun ceremony. if i could capture the melody of the chants it would be an astounding poem, but i wouldn’t know where to begin.

      5. But I feel your style would do very well on a subject like this, plus, I feel the beauty of your writing is your ability to zoom in on micro moments and weave them together like a quilt. I say keep it in mind, one day the inspiration will come.

      6. maybe you have planted the seed. i will keep it in mind. while i am back in England, something may come to me. it is always when you are furthest away from something it returns, so we shall see.

      7. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I was told that land in the North of England is not expensive. Perhaps once you’ve made enough in Jeju, you could retire to your own farm/small manor house in the north and just enjoy nature and write poetry all day. That would be bliss!

      8. You have a point, I heard that having people to interact with is especially important when one is older. How about Inverness, it seems the right balance between urban and rural.

  2. Lake district sounds like a great choice, you could follow the path of those famous Lake poets and take advantage of the beauty that inspired them. Moreover, I understand the allure of Dover’s white cliffs, I suggest you go for the one with the lowest council taxes since nothing is worse than high overhead during retirement.

      1. You are correct, the two characters that make up the word “exercise” in Chinese literally means if you want to live you have to move. Maybe you can edit a literary magazine. Your fame should be quite solid by the time you retire, so such positions could be possible.

      2. I like all your plans for my future. If one of them comes to fruition I’ll be content. I live now & enjoy memories, but i don’t think much about the future.
        The meaning of exercise in Chinese is very fitting.

      3. Mindfulness of the moment is best way to live, plus every time I open the news, the more uncertain everything seems. Its like the old Chinese proverb: Man’s plans are often dashed by Heaven’s will.

      4. we must be cautious though. i became so wrapped up in living in the moment i started to see the past as a hindrance, of something that needs to be ignored to help us be present now, & have seen friends follow the same method only to turn around & say things like “is that me now” when shown themselves in the past, even in something like a photograph. if we give up our past to be here now, totally, we are giving up our life, we are choosing to ignore everything that carried us to now, to what made us aware of now. to essentially give up our history. i think that is a sad thing to offer up to be more in the now.

      5. I think whats most important is to keep whats worth keeping and keep it alive in each moment. For instance, there is a saying in the Maxims of the Sages (Ming era aphorisms-translation available in my library) that: If a veteran monk remains as enthusiastic about Bodhi as when he first ordained, he will become a Buddha very soon. So being shackled by a history of sentimentality is not good, but to go forth everyday with principles, thats what we should aim for. In general we must remember those who have shown us kindness in the past, to be repaid suitably in the future.

  3. The Buddha (Tathagata) is described by the Diamond Sutra as:

    “Subhuti, if someone says that the World-Honored One comes, goes, sits, and lies down, that person has not understood what I have said. Why? The meaning of Tathagata is ‘does not come from anywhere and does not go anywhere? That is why he is called a Tathagata.”

    He neither arises nor ceases to be, that is why Bodhi is bliss. We suffer because we constantly arise and cease, are born and dies, receive and lose. We desire forms, things and courses of events that may or may not go our way.

    However, how do we become a Buddha?

    It is simple: Sila (virtue), Samadhi (right mindfulness) and Prajna (wisdom).

    By vowing for Bodhi, and cultivating all that which is good and abstaining from all that which is bad, we gain a tranquility of mind. With that tranquility, we can cultivate samadhi, such as reciting Amita Buddha’s name and dedicating the merits towards Pure Land rebirth. And if we hold path until the moment of death, and at that moment hold onto Amitabha’s name and yearn for Pure Land rebirth, we can be reborn there and accomplish Bodhi.

    See my Last Rites of Amitabha translation (free and public domain) for more info:

    1. i remember that passage actually.
      i used to want tranquility so badly, now i don’t, i think whatever makes us human is right up to a point. wanting isn’t so bad if the wanting helps others & fills your belly. i built this guesthouse, not for me, i couldn’t give a crap about owning a business, but my wife wanted to do it & i wasn’t doing anything important so i got involved. i learned something, i got a bit better at life, so that i can maybe do something for others again. but i get angry sometimes, depressed, sad, i seldom smile, it seems a little silly to me to smile constantly & i think when i didn’t feel those emotions, when i nurtured only my happiness i wasn’t fully human. happiness is easy, but being sad, accepting that sadness is much more difficult. without the range of human emotion the history of art, music & literature would be very dull.

      1. I say don’t give yourself pressure, if you want, just live a life of virtue and charity and wait for the good things, art and ever improving lives to come. There is a saying that before the Dharma wheels turns the belly rumbles. Buddhism can satisfy both.

        Also, I think your wife really is the best thing that ever happened to you, without her, your many skills would never have translated into such a wonderful income and life.

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